Beth: Alex and I were married twenty five years. We had three children; 2 boys, Sam age 23, Brian, age 20 and a daughter, Kim, age 18. The first ten years of our marriage had been good. Although Alex was not a demonstrative man, I always knew he loved me and our relationship was satisfying to us both. For some inexplicable reason, after we were married about ten years, Alex began to withdraw sexually. I was perplexed as our love making was important to both of us. I always enjoyed it and thought Alex was fulfilled as well. Over the following five years, it was apparent that Alex had lost his sex drive and withdrew from me emotionally, physically and sexually. The cuddling stopped; no more pillow talk, no kissing and finally no more sex. When I confronted him, his response was apathetic. When I suggested we get counseling, he was not interested. Alex was twelve years my senior and I had not been ready to give up sex when I was at my peak. We married when I was twenty-three and at forty-eight I was more sexual than ever. I missed our closeness, the fondling and most of all, I missed our intimacy. I felt rejected, undesirable and resentful. I reached a block in the road of my marriage. Confused and bitter, I began to seek my needs outside my relationship. At first I wasn’t aware of my flirtatious affect when I would go out with my girlfriends. But soon it was apparent to them and finally, I owned it. Because I felt so hungry for love and affection, I wasn’t selective with my choices and seemed to be happy just to get the attention of any man; and there were quite a few.
My absence from the home grew more with a yearning that seemed to be out of control. I had a voracious appetite to be desired and affirmed and was willing to take it from anyone who was willing to give it. I was still very attractive, and took good care of myself, so I knew the problem in the marriage wasn’t about me. Even Alex assured me that it wasn’t me. “It’s my fault”, he would say when I would confront the issue, however he never offered a solution or showed a willingness to work on it. I am sure I made a contribution to the demise, but without his cooperation, the marriage was over.
Cheating was something I would have never considered. It was outside my value system. Yet divorce was not an option. I felt love starved and had no answers from Alex. When I told him I wasn’t ready to live the rest of my life in a sexless marriage, he had no response. When I said that if he wasn’t going to get help and try to resolve the problem, he left me no choice but to find my needs elsewhere. This didn’t encourage him to seek the help we so desperately needed so in time I found someone who would make me feel like I mattered and that I was desirable. I suppose a therapist would say this was a rationalization. I don’t believe it was. My efforts were exhausted and I felt abandoned, thus justified in getting my needs met. The sadness in me was profound, and with each new lover, I felt unfulfilled and confused. The sex alone was not enough to meet my needs. I wanted to be loved; to feel like a woman again. I became depressed and found myself lying to Alex and the kids as I slipped into a depression. My relationship with Alex changed from husband and wife to a critical parent and child. He was the parent and I, the child. We quarreled endlessly, often shouting at each other, and often in the presence of the children. They were subject to this deteriorating and dysfunctional marriage. To make matters worse, Alex lost his job after serving his company for twenty-five years. I think that loss coupled with my missing in action, threw him into a depression as well. We seemed to thrive on insulting one another with disparaging comments that affected each of us and the children. The children shouted at us and each other. We lived like five gutter rats biting and fighting endlessly. Our home felt hostile. I felt like a prisoner. My life was one big nightmare that I felt would never end. We were going nowhere, and I could see nothing but hopelessness. Divorce was out of the question, due primarily to economics. We were forced to live together simply because we couldn’t afford to live apart. I felt trapped, bitter and my temperament around Alex grew into contempt. He lectured me endlessly about my lack of responsibilities to the children as I ran away as often as possible, just to get out of the apartment. We lived in a small, two bedroom apartment in Ft. Lee New Jersey, just across the George Washington Bridge from NY. The boys shared a room and we made a make shift room out of the dining room for our daughter. There was hardly any wiggle room for her and certainly not enough space to have sleepovers and pajama parties. My sons grew tall and angry as they settled into their teens. Privacy was scarce as we all shared one bathroom. The city became my refuge, the escape from my reality. I ran there to catch my breath, because at home, in that tiny apartment I felt trapped and suffocated. But, I was only running away from my unhappiness and had to return each night to the same thing I left earlier in the day.
When it was clear that Alex was not going for counseling, I went alone and was told that my marriage was no longer a marriage. I was living together with the father of my children and except for the shouting matches, there was no communication. I